It is still 15 months for World Cup to get underway when ten teams fight it out for the coveted trophy in the United Kingdom. However, before that from 4th March, ten teams will lock horns for two spots which will be open for grab in World Cup 2019 qualifiers.
The tournament is high profile because it includes test teams like West Indies and Zimbabwe, newly test entrants like Afghanistan and Ireland alongside Scotland, Papua New Guinea, United Arab Emirates, Netherlands and Nepal. While Zimbabwe and West Indies will try to uplift the spirits by qualifying for the world cup, the others will try to prove the progress they have made in recent years.
Sports Courant analyzes all 10 participants
1. West Indies: Once the giant of International Cricket, West Indies Cricket have made the bottom half of ICC their home. Apart from being an excellent T-20 side, they have been lying between 7-9 in Test Cricket and 50 over the game for a long time and off late have started to lose from Afghanistan as well. The performance of the side will depend a lot on Captain Jason Holder himself and youngsters like Shai Hope and Evin Lewis, but it is vital that experienced players like Marlon Samuels, Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach fire to ensure West Indies does not suffer an embarrassment of not qualifying for World Cup. Being the top-ranked team, they are expected to make it through.
2. Zimbabwe: Zimbabwe are the host nation and are expected to take advantage of home conditions, but then they have been very unpredictable in recent times. On the one hand, they have defeated Sri Lanka in Sri Lanka and on the other hand they have lost miserably to Afghanistan. The team need to fire collectively, and players like Hamilton Masakadza, Brendon Taylor, Sean Ervine, Sikandar Raza and Shaun Williams will have to ensure Zimbabwe gets through this stage.
3. Afghanistan: The most dangerous opponents from whom every team needs to be aware of. While the injury to regular skipper Asghar Stainikzai was a blow to the side but they have no signs of missing him in warm-up games. Players like Rashid Khan, Mohammad Shehzad and Mohammad Nabi will be critical to the Afghan aspiration to get the ticket to World Cup 2019.
4. Ireland: Ireland are now a test playing nation, and they will be playing their first test in 2 months time. Before that, they need to go through a litmus test to prove that the standard of their cricket hasn’t fallen in recent years after the retirement of some big names. It will be the responsibility of players like William Porterfield, Paul Sterling, Ed Joyce to ensure that another feather is added in the caps of Irish Cricket.
5. Netherlands: While Netherlands played their first World Cup in 1996 and are much senior to Ireland and Afghanistan, yet they have not been able to establish themselves. In 2013 they even lost the test status which they got back last year. However, they need to be consistent and need seniors like captain Peter Borren, Wesley Barresi, Ben Cooper to fire. The side has been boosted by the return of star batsman Ryan ten Doeschate.
6. Scotland: While it will be asking too much for Scotland to win the tournament but at least they can try to finish among top two which will help To qualify for the big tournament. Scotland have beefed up the pace attack by including Hampshire seamers Brad Wheal and Chris Sole. After an unimpressive summer, they need to pick up the spirits to fight hard and take Scottish cricket to the next level.
7. Nepal: Nepal’s rise in recent year have been phenomenal, and the way cricket has grown in the country has been a fairytale story. The country might be able to play in England if they finish among 2. Considering the growth, Nepal is expected to end among top 5, 6.
8.United Arab Emirates: Another team which has shown a lot of promise and have defeated Nepal to win WCL 2 last month. Rohan Mustafa, Shaiman Anwar are few names which will try to press For UAE’s cause in the tournament.
9. Hong Kong: Hong Kong is sure to miss Mark Chapman who have opted for a career with New Zealand. However it’s up to players like Babar Hayat, Nizakat Khan top ensure all the hard work done to reach here is not wasted. They need to ensure that they get as high rank as possible.
10. Papua New Guinea: Papua New Guinea popularly known as PNG in cricket circles has taken good strides in recent years as a cricket nation.The team, however, is quite raw to be expected to finish as top 2 but a good performance here and if they can end as top 5-6, it will be encouraging signs for the future of cricket in the country.